I forgot to mention the spider. As we climbed into bed at the Requa Inn, there was a spider – in the bed – on my side. Ben did the manly thing and squished it with a tissue. I concentrated on the BEST PIE EVER and the brilliant day we’d had rather than the spider and the creepy dead lady in the hall, which is why my dreams were sweet that night.
We awoke to twittering birds and the sound of huge pickup trucks intermittently roaring past the inn – folks on their way to work we imagined. We suited up for a walk to the coast – about 2 miles up a winding road. The air was clean and smelled of wood stoves and damp earth. The road was steep, but we were working off the pie – and the burger – and the fries – oh, and the onion rings.
We huffed our way up the hill to be rewarded with a different view from the afternoon before. The blue sky had gone, now replaced with a brooding canopy of grey. It heightened the beauty of waves crashing against rocks in the distance.
Back at the inn we settled in to a breakfast of eggs and oatmeal. We then cleaned up, packed up and loaded up, ready for a day of natural beauty.
Our first stop was to drive north to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. We were not certain what to expect, except that we could park and hike the well marked trails. The park blew any preconceptions out of the water.
We entered the park on a dirt track, and the sky started to emerge from the clouds. Sunlight pushed through the dense leaves and tall trunks to speckle the forest floor with light. We opened the sunroof of our car to look up as we drove, giant trees peering down at us.
The driving was slow as the track wove its way through the thick, straight trunks. We could tell that as few trees were felled to make this road, as was possible.
“Luke Skywalker’s been in these woods,” said Ben. “Oh that’s right. They filmed those scenes from Empire here.” We both imagined Luke and Leia flying through the forest at breakneck speed – somewhat faster than we were driving.
We came to a clearing, a marked trail led off into the woods. Here was as good a place as any. We grabbed cameras, and followed the path. How breathtaking. The path was clearly marked, and even though it curled up hill slightly, this walk would be less than strenuous, and more about taking it all in.
It was nearly silent. We could hear a single – and presumably lost – bee humming above our heads. There were no bird calls, and the air was still, so not even the rustling of leaves contributed to our soundtrack. All we could hear were our gentle treads on the slightly damp earth and our breath.
We moved ever upward, stepping over the occasional tree root, and following the winding trail. “Can you imagine the root system underneath us?” Ben asked. We were stunned by how tightly packed together the Redwoods are. We had also realised the day before that neither of us really knew what to expect from a Redwood. I have envisioned big bushy-topped trees, like Oaks, but these giant thrust straight up from the ground, with tufts of tiny leaves sticking out near their tops.
In tree world, if the Redwoods were not so terrifyingly tall, they would have been bullied for being ‘funny looking’. They were all out of balance, and not unlike very tall, solid people with tiny heads. But I did not dare laugh for fear that one would lift a root from the forest floor and step on me. I observed the reverent silence exemplified by the rest of the forest, mindful that these trees had been on the earth longer than I could conceive.
“Have you ever scene those pictures where they take the cross section of one of these trunks and show all the significant dates in human history?” asks Ben, pondering the history all around us. I had, and later I would buy him a postcard showing this.
We reached an arbitrary place on the trail, marked only by the half hour we had walked, and a giant orgy of 6 trees all growing together. “Would you like a kiss amongst giant trees,” asked my tall, handsome man. The trees politely turned away, and then we headed back down the trail. The sun was really breaking through the canopy now, stream of light bringing to life the damp forest. It was a beautiful chaos, with every colour of imaginable green, and every texture I knew. Bulbous, knobbly tree gnarls next to the satiny petals of a wild flower.
Back in the car we continued to marvel at the world around us. Just before the end of the park, we pulled off to take another trail, hoping to get down to the ever widening river below us.
The trail was more treacherous than the previous one, with stones and tree roots underfoot, but it was short. We descended to the riverbed, having to go ‘off-road’ to see the really good stuff. I climbed a felled log and walked along it up towards a small waterfall. Ben climbed through brush and crossed a stream to see the river up close. We have fulfilled our Nancy Drew/Hardy Boy fantasies for the day and climbed out of the forest, a little out of breath from our childlike endeavours.
We drove into Crescent City, looking for a place to lunch – a proper lunch so as not to be caught out by starvation around dinner time. Subway would do, because it was fast, healthy, and we knew what we’d be getting.
Crescent City was a generic U.S. town of the working class variety. Pickup trucks and old boxy sedans criss-crossed paths, and the town uniform was jeans with a T-shirt or flannel. I saw a store called ‘Bikes and Guitars’. It was that sort of town: straightforward – what you see is what you get without flourish or embellishment. It was a stark contrast from the pristine, manicured towns of the Napa Valley.
The staff at Subway had twangy accents, like you would expect much further south, and they were personable and fun. I would also have to say that it was the best Subway I have had, perhaps because it was created with flourishes and flair that would put a top-notch bar tender to shame.
Full, happy, and looking forward to adding another state to our ‘been there’ lists, Ben and I headed off and into Oregon.
The border came and went without much ado. I did a little car seat dance to mark the occasion. Bill Bryson was still telling his tale, and we still listened, riveted. Hours went by quickly, as his soft, self-deprecating tone filled our car.
Soon after entering Oregon, the sky turned from blue to grey. And then it rained. Thick, fat drops hit the windscreen. “Hang on,” I said looking intensely out the window a few minutes later, “is that hail?” “Yep,” said Ben, as though he had expected it. Rain, then hail: ‘Welcome to Oregon.’
We drove towards the coast, getting small glimpses of a spectacular coastline. “We can pull off at one of these lookouts,” noted Ben. “Here’s one,” he said pointing up ahead. I pulled the car off and onto a heavily pot-holed track.
At the car park, we both got out and the force of the wind nearly pushed me back into the car. I stumbled forward to get a look at the view. “Oh my God,” I said. “Geez,” Ben said. We were so eloquent.
A jagged black pyramid stood just offshore in the surf, battered by constantly breaking waves. The erratic water met grey sand, dotted with oversized pebbles, and rippled by the fierce wind.
I took some shots, and gratefully climbed back into the shelter of the car. Ben was braver than I. He pushed his way down to the shore, walking on a slant against the wind. The coast in northern California had been beautiful – I described it an untamed – but this was something else. I was running out of superlatives.
We drove on. It snowed! The exclamation point is all I can do to convey my surprise. We’d thought the previous day had shown a contrast in weather, but this day had gone from mild and sunny to snowing – all within a 100 miles.
Our next stop was at a similarly spectacular spot, but this one for the human creations placed on precarious cliffs. A starkly white lighthouse, and the keeper’s neat white cottage, with its equally white picket fence, stood proudly on cliff tops. We stretched our legs by climbing the path to the lighthouse. It was a quick visit, though, as the rain started up again. We ran through it back to the car, arriving out of breath and laughing. We dried out as we continued north.
We were driving to Bandon, a small town on the southern Oregon coast. We arrived at 4. For an inexplicable reason we had arrived at our destination for the third day running, at 4pm. We had planned this trip, insomuch as two people can with Google Earth and some emails, but we were fluking our arrivals to coincide with check-in time. With two days to come, could we keep this up?
The Windermere Beach Motel presented us with a tiny attic self-contained unit, with a huge picture window that looked out at the beach. We re-arranged the furniture, after it was clear that we would want to sit on the couch and watch out that window for as long as we could. It was still four hours until sunset.
We had set aside that afternoon for ‘chilling out’, which we did, reading, catching up on emails, sipping some wine we’d brought. All the while we kept an eye on our view, the changeable light revealing more about this stunning coastline.
We dined across the street at Bandon Bill’s Grill. We ordered beers, because the music and the atmosphere called for it. I had the hugest plate of baby back ribs I have ever seen. I made a valiant effort, but as the waitress cleared my plate, she remarked that her dog would be delighted when she got home.
We got back to our ‘home’ in time to watch the sun set. The horizon was peppered with bulky grey clouds, and the sun hid her naked self behind them. It was a burlesque show of peekaboo, and stolen glimpses of her beauty.
After she had disappeared for the day, we walked out onto the windy beach. It was smooth, and grey and vast. Other small groups walked too. Even though it was cold, there was something about this place that called us to come out and play.
The last light finally disappeared, and we headed ‘home’ again.